The author of Vatican (1986), among others, returns with a mammoth meditation on the troubled state of today's Catholic Church. So troubled, as one of the characters reports to the ""slavic Pope"" who is the central figure here, that ""it's going down."" In his opening scenes, surprising for this measured writer, Martin portrays an animal sacrifice straight out of Stephen King, and Lucifer's plan is unveiled: to penetrate the Church hierarchy and eventually the Holy See itself with corrupt priests. They are bent on merging with economic and ethical universalists in the public arena, but their true agenda is the ascension of Satan and the annihilation of humankind. A young American priest, Christian Gladstone, from a place of peace called Windswept House, attempts to reverse these trends in his audiences with the slavic Pope; his twin brother, a lawyer, is embroiled in the impending new world order. They are light and dark, but, curiously, the slavic Pope is gray. He as much as anyone stood against Stalinist forces in Eastern Europe, but at a cost to the private message of faith and redemption the Church always has symbolized. But, while he himself has secularized the Church, his personal faith is deeply traditional. He seeks a revelation from an aged nun who participated in the Marian manifestation at Fatima. Can she tell this weary old man when Jesus will return? Does he have the strength for one last battle, as Lucifer stands poised to become Pope? Slowly, indeed, Martin's passions--and his agony over the dire straits of his faith--build into a deeply felt moral crisis. Martin is a close associate with Pope John XXIII, and his knowledge of Vatican politics is extraordinary. He pauses just short of the Apocalypse, but should find readers among Catholics and many evangelicals. Too slow-moving, and too specialized, for everyone else.